Bill could give ‘preference’ to heterosexual couples in adoption, foster care in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A pair of bills are being filed in the Utah State Legislature dealing with the words "husband" and "wife."

One bill drops them from Utah foster care and adoption law, reflecting the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. The other could potentially give a "preference" to heterosexual couples in foster care and adoptions, but also add same-sex couples to state law.

"We should support all families here in Utah. We are the state that talks about families and celebrating our families, so let's put it in statute," said Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who filed House Bill 234 on Thursday.

HB234 would remove "husband and wife" from adoption and foster care law in favor of "spouse." Romero's bill had support from the director of Utah's Division of Child and Family Services, who said it would comply with law.

After the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage, DCFS challenged a Price juvenile court judge who said he believed an infant in foster care would do better with a heterosexual couple and ordered the child removed from a married lesbian couple's home. The judge later reversed himself.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber, told FOX 13 on Thursday he is still drafting his bill that could declare a "preference" for heterosexual couples in parenting laws.

"It could stay where a man and a woman has a preference, that is what it says in current law. That's a discussion that could happen," he said.

Powell said his bill would add same-sex couples to parenting laws, something that has not been done before. He said much of the language he is working on reflects comments given to him from constituents.

"I'm going to be opening the door for many parenting relationships in same-sex couples and possibly, in some people's views, obstructing others, I guess," he said.

FOX 13 first reported earlier this month that Powell was planning to seek a constitutional amendment to repeal Amendment 3, the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Powell said Thursday that after hearing from constituents, he has decided to abandon that bill, noting that Amendment 3 has already been declared unconstitutional by the courts.

He said he is still planning to draft a bill that would change "husband" and "wife" in state code.

"I do think the word spouse or a gender neutral term that includes the same-sex couples has to be in there, but we could actually leave the word husband and wife to encompass opposite-sex marriages and include an additional term to encompass same-sex marriage," Powell said.

The LGBT rights group Equality Utah was critical of Powell's parenting bill, vowing to oppose it.

"I think he wants it both ways," Equality Utah director Troy Williams said of Powell's bills. "On the one hand he's trying to say, 'Look, I'm trying to help clean up state code, I'm trying to help gay couples.' But on the other hand he wants to beat up and harm gay families and we will not stand for that."

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